Mola Mola’s KULA Review

September 10, 2021 § Leave a comment

Aavik Acoustics I-180 Integrated Amplifier, D-180 DAC, and S-180 Streamer / Network Player Review

September 8, 2021 § Leave a comment

I often said to myself that I was impressed by this integrated amplifier, that for a Class D amplifier, it sounded excellent. However, as I got further into the review period, I stopped thinking that it was an outstanding Class D integrated amplifier, but simply an outstanding integrated amplifier, especially at its price. I thought this true even after reinstalling it into my system after listening to my reference. Of course, I have heard better, but these amps had much less power and far fewer features than this very good-looking integrated amplifier.

The I-180’s front-panel covering red LED display was easy to read even from across the room, and the intangibles of this amplifier, as many settings can be changed by the user. I would have liked a subwoofer output, but other than that, there wasn’t much more than I would have liked.


September 6, 2021 § Leave a comment

Have I found ANY type of music that the Marantz doesn’t excel at? Not yet. But I’m still listening… What makes the Marantz so strait-laced in its proclivities? The bass is tight and very tuneful. The pitch of string bass and cello notes is easily followed whether the instruments are bowed or plucked. The bass extension (subwoofer driven off the Marantz’s preamplifier output jacks in my system) is prodigious. For example, try “Flight of the Cosmic Hippo” by Bela Fleck or “How Great Thou Art” by Valor. The Marantz brings it on in the bass.

The Marantz’s midrange is very dynamic without ever becoming brash (this is a very tight rope to walk). I like to test amps with complicated music like the Seekers’ and the Pentangle’s live performances. If the voices and instruments remain discreet instead of blending into mush, the amplifier is doing its job. The Marantz does. Another test for midrange is Goran Brevogić’s “Maki Maki.” The voice is somewhat recessed at times in relation to the instruments and other general musical mayhem in the background. If the lower-volume comments and asides are clearly audible in this piece, then the amplifier has got exceptional midrange definition. The Marantz does.

Rotel Michi X5 Integrated Amplifier Review

September 2, 2021 § Leave a comment

As on the X3 the two sets of speaker terminals are paralleled and designed to bi-wire a single pair of suitable speakers. A pair of pre-outs are provided should you wish to add an external amplifier for bi-amping your speakers, and there are two mono subwoofer outputs, plus a headphone socket on the front panel.

Also retained from the X3 is that simple fascia, with little more than source and volume controls, and a big, ultra-clear display complete with fripperies – all defeatable – such as VU meters and spectrum analyser readouts. Should you want to go for the full moody black look, the display can be dimmed or turned off from the excellent remote common to all Michi integrateds and the P5 preamp [HFN May ’20]. It’s a solid little device, and a masterpiece of clarity – you can even temporarily adjust tone and balance without leaving your listening seat.

Yamaha RX-A2A $799 REVIEW

August 25, 2021 § Leave a comment

Watching the race from Ready Player One the movement of the motorbike zipping across the sound field feels both wide and precise as it weaves in and out of traffic. The long skids and screeches of these virtual vehicles are pleasingly broad and fizzy, while smaller features of the game such as the controller beeps and coin glissandos are neatly detailed. During big crashes, low frequency information occasionally sounds a bit blunt but there’s still plenty of drama and punch in the explosive action.


August 25, 2021 § Leave a comment

The M33’s Dirac Live is a sort of “Lite” version that measures and corrects only up to 500 Hz, which nonetheless covers most of the heavy lifting that any such system can offer. (Above the “transition frequency” where room modes cease to exert much influence— typically a few hundred Hz—equalization becomes much more of a crap- shoot that’s highly dependent on speaker radiation patterns, placement, and room surfaces and furnishings.) M33 owners can upgrade to full-bandwidth Dirac Live Full Frequency for an up-charge of $99 via a card supplied with the unit.

I ran the M33’s Dirac using the supplied “puck” micro- phone, conveniently via my iPad Mini 5 and Dirac’s relatively new iOS app, with no difficulty. It’s an elegant system, but since Dirac has been amply covered in these pages by myself and others I will not rehearse the process here fully, other than to point out that the M33’s iteration permits storage and recall of up to five different correction “runs,” for different speakers, placements, or seating positions. My measurement run for a single-listener setup required nine mic positions in concentric rings around the primary seating area, with the whole process taking 15 minutes. Unlike most receiver-bound correction systems, Dirac Live permits the user to adjust the target curve, shaping response to the listener’s room, speakers, or preference, though—unless one upgrades to Full Frequency—only over the bottom four-plus octaves

Bryston B135 Cubed Integrated Amplifier Review

August 24, 2021 § Leave a comment

As quiet as the B135 SST2 is—it’s still one of the quietest integrateds I’ve heard—the B1353 seemed quieter still. The difference was subtle, but with “Get Behind the Mule,” from Waits’s Mule Variations, it was as though the head of the drum was stretched more tightly across the frame, sounding a bit more taut. The sound of a foot tapping out the beat was also more readily resolved through the B1353. Similarly, with Tori Amos’s “Caught a Lite Sneeze,” I thought the stage was even better resolved through the newer Bryston, with even greater fluidity in the rhythm of the music.

These aren’t the kinds of differences that will make B135 SST2 owners run out and sell their amps—the gap in performance was no gulf. However, if I had the choice of buying one or the other and sound was the only factor, I’d opt for the B1353. As I switched back and forth between them, it was sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly what difference I was hearing—yet I consistently heard an overall smoothness to the sound of the B1353 that was incredibly easy on my ears. When I reviewed my listening notes, I found the nouns ease and easiness sprinkled throughout. Evidently, that was the consistent impression I was left with.

Mola Mola Tambaqui Review

August 23, 2021 § Leave a comment

SPL Performer m1000 Monoblock Amplifiers $8598 Review

August 16, 2021 § Leave a comment

My two months of listening to SPL’s Performer m1000 monoblocks has left me impressed and a bit smitten with them. The m1000 packs one hell of a punch, in sound and in value. Not once did I feel it had to strain to produce enough output power, or that its sound was constrained in any way, even at very high playback levels. Furthermore, the Performer m1000s ran cool, look cool, and, if you’re brave enough to lift one, feel solid as a rock. But most important, the m1000s were compelling to listen to.

Pegaso Audio P50A Integrated Amplifier £5750 Review

August 12, 2021 § Leave a comment

But I’m certain that if I was to own a P50A, I’d often find myself seeking out the best recorded music I had, because it deserves it. Aretha Franklin’s vocal on ‘Respect’ [I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You; 44.1kHz/16-bit FLAC] sounded as uplifting as ever, but the thin nature of the recording (I know, I’m a philistine) came to the fore.

I’ll end on that bass. Perhaps it’s a case of recency bias, but with suitable tracks I don’t think I’ve ever heard my B&Ws so competent, so fluid and so musical in the low range, outside of Pass Labs’ more expensive INT-25 [HFN Dec ’20], another Class A amp, but solid-state. It turned the unfussy three-note bass line of Chris Rea’s ‘Daytona’ [The Road To Hell; Tidal Master] into something to luxuriate in, while at the other end of the audio band, the delicate percussion rang through with spine-tingling clarity.

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